Not many clubs can boast a line-up of World Cup finalists, but as we approach the ninth global tournament, The Tig is basking in the warm glow from a list of Leicester Tigers names to grace the biggest stage of all.
Tigers, of course, had seven men among England’s winners in 2003 – plus the coach Clive Woodward – and you double that number if you look for all Leicester players with gold medals to show for their World Cup campaigns.
Martin Johnson and ’03 team-mates Neil Back, Martin Corry, Ben Kay, Lewis Moody, Julian White and Dorian West present the core of a formidable forward pack of World Cup winners, while Joel Stransky exerted a huge influence on South Africa’s 1995 winners before joining the Wallabies’ winning coach Bob Dwyer at Welford Road.
Will Greenwood and Stuart Abbott, both former Tigers by that stage, were champions with England, while the addition of Brad Thorn, Owen Finegan, JP Pietersen and Jean de Villiers leaves us just one short of a Tigers World Cup Winners XV even if their club careers here were fleeting.
Extend the list to include World Cup finalists and you can select a 21-year-old Mathew Tait, England’s greatest tryscorer Rory Underwood and the ever-popular flanker Josh Kronfeld.
We are in rarefied company, as you would expect in the biggest fixture in the world game.
But what about others who have made a major mark on the World Cup stage? Marcos Ayerza was a double semi-finalist with Argentina, Seremaia Bai and Seru Rabeni were part of a Fiji team that shocked Wales in ’07, and Sione Kalamafoni was the Tongan man of the match in their win over France in 2011 andis now going to his third finals tournament.
Telusa Veainu, too, was drifting without the anchor of a contract to go home to in 2015, but quickly became a favourite at Tigers and a scourge of Premiership rivals.
Ben Youngs and Dan Cole are heading to a third World Cup under a third different coach as the most-capped men in England’s Class of 2019, while Manu Tuilagi and Jonny May are widely seen as potential giants of the tournament in Japan.
So how about this for The Tig’s Tigers World Cup XV?
15 Tait (finalist), 14 Tuqiri (finalist), 13 Greenwood (winner), 12 Flood (finalist), 11 R Underwood (finalist), 10 Stransky (winner), 9 Youngs; 1 Ayerza, 2 West (winner), 3 White (winner), 4 Johnson (c) (winner), 5 Kay (winner), 6 Moody (winner), 7 Back (winner), 8 Corry (winner)
In reserve, you could have Rowntree, Chuter (finalist), Cole, Thorn (winner), Kronfeld (finalist), Healey, Hipkiss (finalist) and Pietersen (winner) while still leaving names like Veainu, Richards, Lloyd, Garforth and French duo Tournaire and Mermoz (both finalists) waiting for a call. Is anyone missing?
* On the subject of the global game, The Tig tried in last week’s blog to understand the current state of world rankings. No less a power than Agustin Pichot is likewise puzzled and the former Argentina scrum-half has vowed to do something about it.
To recap: In the space of three weekends, England beat Wales to deny them going to No1 but not by enough to go to No1, Wales beat England to go No1 for the first time but lost to Ireland and slipped below them and England. New Zealand are No1 – that bit we can all understand clearly.